It was a tough assignment, but I managed to convince three friends to join me in a taste test of five non-dairy frozen desserts. We gathered in the “brainstorming room” of my local co-working site and set out the pints, covered with plain paper and numbered for reference, with some water crackers on hand to clear our palates bet
ween samples. I couldn’t find all five in a single flavor (an unexpected problem—I thought every brand would have chocolate or vanilla in stock), so I settled on three chocolates, a chocolate/peanut butter, and a carob mint. We tested for texture/consistency, flavor, sweetness, aftertaste and overall enjoyment. Here are our picks, from least to most tasty.
(*) In last place was So Delicious Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert in Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl. We all liked its sweetness, but rated its consistency as everything from “smooth enough” to “dense” to “gummy” to “great.” Most of us identified both coconut and peanut butter in the taste, and three of us noted a “chemical” aftertaste. One tester, Giulia, likened the flavor to “isopropyl alcohol.” How appetizing!
(**)Next worst was Tofutti Chocolate Supreme Premium Frozen Dessert, an unappealing (to me) washed-out shade of light brown. Victorya liked the consistency, calling it “fluffy like marshmallow” and giving it a four. It got a one for its marshmallow consistency from me, as I happen to hate marshmallows. Giulia and Rachel described it as “moussy” and “airy—not in a good way.” Rachel, vying for the discriminating taste maven title, described the flavor as “imitation coconut” with a “floor wax chemical” aftertaste. None of us could find much chocolate taste anywhere but two of us described the taste as “chemical.”
(***)Claiming the middle spot was a soy-based treat from Purely Decadent called Chocolate Obsession. It had
chocolate chunks and was Victorya’s favorite. She described the consistency as “smooth and airy, like sherbet.” We all liked the chocolate chunks but the rest of us described the texture as “granular” and “icy.” Giulia, whose taste buds were on overdrive, thought this one was “bitter” and tasted like “green tea with an earthy aftertaste.”
(****)Runner-up was Mint Carob Chip Frozen Dessert from Rice Dream. Three tasters gave it high marks for texture, calling it “creamy” and “smooth.” I was the dissenter, calling it first “granular/icy” and later, upon settling in my mouth, “gummy.” We all liked the carob chips. Two tasters described an aftertaste that was “bitter” and “sour.”
(*****)The winner was…Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert from Almond Dream. Several of us detected what we thought was pistachio (we were wrong). Comments ranged from “too sweet” to “not too sweet,” which probably means it was in the acceptable range of most folks’ preference. Texture opinions varied too, from Rachel’s “slightly oily” to “smooth” from Giulia and me. Despite its flaws, this one garnered the highest ranking for overall enjoyment.
In retrospect, it’s interesting that the two soy-based desserts (Tofutti and Chocolate Obsession) were so different from each other. Tofutti is the original non-dairy frozen treat, dating from the 1970s, but our taste buds told us it’s been far surpassed by more recent additions to the field.
The good news is that the top two choices were also the best value, costing $3.69 each. More good news: The winners were also a better option nutritionally if your main concern is fat. Since we had lots left over, I invited my other coworkers to help
themselves, and I heard several appreciative “wow’s” that our recommended selections could compete with the real thing—dairy, that is.
MELINDA TUHUS is an independent print and radio journalist who has written for The New York Times. She writes the Activated blog for E.